How did NASA collaborate to develop the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover)?

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Answered by: Kat, An Expert in the Space Flight and Missions Category
In 2010, NASA landed what is certainly the most versatile and technologically advanced rover ever built on the surface of Mars. The Mars Science Laboratory, also known as the Curiosity Rover, is outfitted with everything necessary to explore and analyse the surface of the Red Planet. The construction of the rover's bleeding-edge tech was a feat in itself, but the greatest miracle of all was and is its survival.

The success rate of man-made rovers and satellites deployed on Mars is 54%. Of the 13 artificial objects mankind has sent to our neighboring planet, only two are still operational. Mars 3 and Mars 6, both USSR spacecraft, returned data for only a few seconds before failing or being destroyed. Mars 2, Deep Space 2, and the Schiaparelli Lander all crashed into the surface of Mars and failed to complete even the bare minimum objectives of their outlined missions.

In the field of advanced robotics, technological errors are often disastrous, and their causes are frequently small errors that are difficult to find. Sending a completed robot out into the world to perform its tried and tested function is terrifying enough, but sending your robot to another planet is a different matter entirely. Remote control of Mars Rovers is a troublesome matter; a signal takes on average 13 minutes to reach either side of the communications gap. Relaying time-sensitive commands is an impossibility. The landers and rovers must be pre-programmed to complete every step of their missions, nearly exclusively without the involvement of humans.

The Curiosity Rover's scientific devices include seventeen cameras, a radiation detector, and several instruments for measuring the chemical makeup of the Martian soil, rock, atmosphere and ice. Every single one of the instruments on the rover is still functional. Since the rover has landed, humankind's knowledge of Mars has increased exponentially. With technology never before having arrived, functioning, in one piece on Mars, the rover relays information constantly: images, reports, and assessments, but most importantly, gives an idea of what it would be like to live on Mars.

The future of mankind undeniably lies on the Red Planet. The astounding opportunity of an Earth-like planet directly beside our own is one that cannot be ignored. However, packing our things and moving across the figurative pond of empty, dead space isn't a mission that a single space agency can accomplish. After all, the scientific instruments on Curiosity weren't all built by the same team of engineers. Proposals and designs were selected from all over the world, making the rover a collaborative project- the likes of which could never have been built with input from just one group. As the horizons of space exploration expand continually, the complex projects created have been built by more and more contributors.

In Kim Stanley Robinson's brilliant novel Red Mars, which serves as a surprisingly scientifically accurate prediction of the modern journey to the red planet, the crew of the Ares spacecraft is composed of a hundred astronauts from all around the world. Unique contributions are necessary for a functional mission in any field of space exploration, and this isn't just true in works of science fiction. The Mars Science Laboratory's landing and continual mission serves not only as a stream of knowledge from another planet, but as solid evidence of the success of collaboration, trust, creativity, and most importantly, curiosity.

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